The Tragedy of Tragedy
Another Chamorro soldier has died in Iraq, this time, Army Spc. Kasper Allan Camacho Dudkiewicz a military police officer.
My life for the past 48 hour has deprived me of the energy to write want I know I must.
I haven't slept very much lately. I was up all night Friday night writing a conference paper I had to give Saturday morning in Honolulu. I gave the paper, packed my bags and then flew to Los Angeles that night, arriving in California Sunday morning at 5. I then waited until 8:30 for a train to take me down to San Diego.
All I have the energy for right now is raw emotions, I can't find the strength to turn them into something constructive or something beautifully written.
All I can come up with now is that I'm pissed as hell. (I'm trying to be careful now not to use chatfino' in my posts after extensive use of the f word kept many people from viewing my blog at their workplaces)
I was on Guam for when Richard Naputi was killed and then brought home. I left before the funeral, but I had a chance to attend a rosary and also speak to some of his family members. It was a tough loss, because he was on his way home. Within a month some say he would have been back and he would have been done with the military.
A tragic death many would say, and although part of me wants to agree with this characterization, part of me resists, because I know that too often the term "tragedy" is invoked, in an attempt to localize something, to cut if off from larger concerns and make it this contained, terrrible and tragic thing.
This is the shell through which the ghosts of Chamorro soldiers are confined to. A tragic death, a tragic loss. The term "tragedy" and its more determined form "tragic" covering the death, tragic ghost traps like those of Ghostbusters making sure that this ghost, this loss and what we might make of it doesn't wander far. Doesn't wander towards economics, politics, issues of culture, colonization, militarization, etc. That these apparitions don't unexpectedly appear beside another one of George W. Bush's pathetic (are their any men and women in uniform that I haven't been filmed in front of yet?) speeches. This appearance throwing into question not just the flimsiness of his rhetoric, but also the character of his administration and those who put that soldier into war, and why. How even more horrifying would it be if these spectres suddenly began to haunt the military industrial complex itself?
But tragic narratives we tell ourselves and each other are often the front to keep these hauntings from taking place. Through the sometimes unthought decision to use this rubric to articulate the meaning of this death, we are led to so many incredibly powerful ways of keeping the potential meanings this death might produce very narrow in nature. The expected response is that this death is full of meaning, full of sacrifical value, that this death was not useless or pointless because he or she was serving their country, and that they were defending important things like freedom and SUV's.
The only critique that is easily available here is that the social redeemables (hero status) are not worth the loss, but the assigned of "tragic" status to this often ends up reinforcing the banal things we say about war (its hell, you never know what's gonna happen), that keep war war and often prevent us from seeing war as not just something that happens, but something that happens for very specific reasons, and usually on behalf of certain groups.
To get caught up in how tragic this death is, usually keeps us from making the connections that the film Syriana for examples attempts to make clear. A suicide bomber does not just happen, and speech over how tragic and sad it is, generally exists in order to prevent any concrete connections of any decent understanding from taking place. Why? Because most generally if you did make those connections, then you might be forced to act, to do something about it. Why? Because the underside of globalization, that which is so forcefully disavowed is complicity. The true tragedy of us viewing a massacre in Africa is that we can consistently disavow our complicity with it, at the level of the gaze, but also in terms of economics, politics, race, and strategy. The obscene danger of globalization is that for those, in particular in the First World, who want to deny their (and their country's) role in making the world a more violent and dangerous place, they must work even harder than usual, because globalization of technology through television, film and internet, means that the violence exported on behalf, the violence upon which your comfort and complacency is built can be easily found or stumbled upon.
Do we then emphasis the tragedy of things, in an attempt to do away with this anxiety? To push away this object which reflects me in ways I cannot control and cannot confront.
On Guam, this "tragic" emphasis takes on a whole new level because of the colonial relationship. The deaths of 5 Chamorros and then seven others from Micronesia in the Iraq War are not connected to larger frameworks, not made to mean based against our colonial relationship to the United States. Instead, too often we bring out of the language of tragedy in order to deny the impacts that that relationship has in our everyday lives. While in the United States someone might invoke this in order to keep themselves from questioning the role of the military in terms of their nation, in Guam there is at least one extra level of questioning that must be hidden as quickly as possible. Is this nation that I am fighting for my own? Or is this nation that this person who died fighting for, even my own?
This for me is the real tragedy. That even after five Chamorro deaths, as a people we still cannot see these deaths as anything other than unavoidable casualties of war, and not see how terrifying it is that these Chamorros are dying for a country who has done nothing more than use them and their islands for more than a century, and at present shows little sign of doing otherwise.